So it doesn’t look as though last night’s ‘love-in’ that I reported went particularly well. Cheryl Gillan described planning minister Nick Boles last night as ‘completely unmoveable’. Meanwhile, Zac Goldsmith, leader of the rebels on the extensions row in the Commons, was on the Today programme this morning calling it an ‘odd policy’ and ‘very bad, clumsy politics’. He argued that there were other ways of using construction to promote growth:
‘There are alternatives: we could relax the planning system without undermining democracy, without going against everything we said in opposition about localism, protecting back gardens and so on. We could easily have a sort of default green light for developments that aren’t opposed by neighbours.’
What’s irritating Tory MPs more than anything is that they can’t see how allowing homeowners to extend their properties without planning permission fits with Nick Boles’ overarching argument that new developments need to be attractive and of high quality so that the local community will accept them. But that relies more on ‘making the case’ to developers, rather than regulating for quality.
This is a technical issue, but it will be interesting to see how the whips work today to reduce the numbers of rebels if last night’s drop-in session with the minister had no effect.